Are we having fun yet?

I caught myself doing it again.  I was applying the diamond technique to my work.  That is when I try to create something of value by subjecting myself to extreme heat and pressure. 

I was writing a chapter for my upcoming book and found myself stressed out about a self-imposed deadline.  Apparently I forgot that the reason I began working on the book was because I enjoy writing.  In fact, for years I had grand visions of plinking away at my keyboard, gracefully writing about interesting and helpful things.  The reality of my writing has been something else entirely.

The missing ingredient has been fun, playfulness and enjoyment.  JOY even. 

This reminded me of the concept of Flow.  In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes experiences that are so engaging that we lose ourselves in them.  These activities seem to transport us to a new reality of creativity and discovery.

The interesting aspect of Flow activities is that they occur when we have a balance between our skill level and the challenge of the activity.  If we are overskilled for the challenge, we get bored since the challenge is no match for us.  However, if the challenge overwhelms our skills, we experience anxiety.  A short description of this with a great visual can be found here.

I recognize that my primary emotion when writing (and perhaps all my work) has been fear and anxiety.  Further, I alone am the source of that fear and anxiety.  I do this by increasing the challenge level of my tasks.  I create artificial and unrealistic deadlines.  I also create unrealistic performance and quality standards for myself.  As a result, I suck all the joy and fun out of my work.

Are you sucking all the fun and enjoyment out of your work?  What emotion do you feel when you work?  Do you experience flow?  Are you having fun and joy?  Or are you creating artificial pressure on yourself and creating anxiety?

I challenge you to track your emotions during the course of your work for the next few days.  If necessary, use the self-awareness techniques we talked about in previous posts.   Are you having fun?  Are you experiencing joy and flow in your work?  If not, what are you going to do to change that?

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